The Affects of Whiplash & Your TMJ Health


Last month, we discussed the topic of injuries that cause TMJ pain. One of the most common types of injuries leading to TMJ problems is whiplash. The problem is so prevalent, we decided to take a closer look at how whiplash can affect the TMJ.

What is Mandibular Whiplash Injury?

Many people know whiplash as a head and neck injury that occurs during motor vehicle accidents when the head is flung backward then forward. The violent force of this movement can cause a host of physical problems, including:

  • Stretching of the vertebrae discs
  • Stretching of the surrounding muscles in the head, face, neck, and back
  • Stretching of the surrounding ligaments
  • Crushing of nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue

Whiplash is considered an indirect injury of the jaw because direct impact isn’t made, however, actions during an accident can affect the TMJ. When a collision occurs, the mandible is yanked open as the head is thrown backward. When the head is thrown forward, the jaw snaps shut. This violent movement can stretch or tear the anterior muscles connected to the TMJ and the interarticular disc. Further soft tissue damage can also occur.

Numerous studies have shown even slow speed collisions with little automobile damage can cause whiplash that results in TMJ injury. However, unlike other symptoms of whiplash, TMJ injuries may not be noticeable until long after the accident occurred.

Signs Whiplash Has Caused TMJ Injury

Right after whiplash occurs, people often feel pain in their neck, head and/or back. For most people, the symptoms of TMJ injury begin to manifest much later and can increase in severity over time. Despite lack of outward injury to the face or jaw, reports have shown up to 87% of people who suffer whiplash injure their TMJ. This problem is particularly prevalent in patients who were involved in a rear-end collision.

study supported by the Swedish Medical Research Council found 1 in 3 people who suffer whiplash are at risk for delayed TMJ pain.

If you have experienced whiplash, you may have also injured your TMJ if the symptoms below are present:

  • Pain in the musculoskeletal structure of the jaw
  • Pain while chewing or talking
  • Inability to open your mouth fully
  • Asymmetry when opening the mouth
  • Changes in your bite
  • Ringing in the ears or a feeling of stuffiness
  • Earaches without an infection
  • Sounds of clicking or popping during jaw movement
  • Development of vertigo

If the problem is left untreated, TMJ issues can become permanent. This is why doctors now highly recommend anyone who has suffered whiplash be evaluated for TMJ injury. TMD clinics like MedCenter TMJ are equipped with start-of-the-art TMD diagnostic equipment that is capable of thoroughly examining the temporomandibular region to assess the health of joints, ligaments and muscles.

Patients can call or go online to schedule an appointment with MedCenter TMJ to further discuss your medical history and symptoms.

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